Medical cannabis users cite human rights as they decry Halifax dispensary raids

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Medical cannabis users concerned with number of dispensary raids
Police have been ramping up their raids on cannabis dispensaries in Halifax in recent weeks. But as Elizabeth McSheffrey reports, the crackdown has some medical cannabis users worried about access – Aug 16, 2019

Medical cannabis users in Nova Scotia are decrying a recent crackdown on illicit cannabis dispensaries in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

They protested outside the Halifax provincial court on Friday, where a well-known community cannabis activist was released on surety for $3,000 with limited conditions.

Chris Enns, owner of the Farm Assists Medical Cannabis Resources Centre, faces four illegal cannabis possession-related charges, after the shop’s Gottingen Street location was raided and about 45 pounds of the substance were seized.

His supporters and clients say under-the-table dispensaries are often the only way to access affordable, curated medical cannabis products in Nova Scotia – access that is a human right.

“The (legal) pricing hugely impacts medical cannabis patients because most people are on fixed, low-income and unable to work for a living because of critical and chronic conditions,” said Debbie Stultz-Giffin, chair of the Maritimers Unite for Medical Marijuana Society (MUMMS).

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“Since Farm Assists got shut down, there’s a lot of patients looking for meds in a lot of places, because that was a central location in Nova Scotia,” added Alex LeBlanc, who uses concentrates to treat the pain and symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis.

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“They had the prices down to an ethical price point, as low as they could bring it. So now, I’m struggling for access.”

READ MORE: Outspoken activist Chris Enns charged in connection with Halifax dispensary raids

Since June, Halifax Regional Police have raided four dispensaries in the area, and taken at least 50 pounds of cannabis, $43,000 and 4,000 related products off the black market.

The Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation (NSLC) can’t sell medical cannabis, which is only available by special order from producers licensed by the federal government. But Nova Scotia has only a handful of such retailers, and none are listed as being licensed to sell anything beyond seeds, plants, dried and fresh cannabis to patients.

That’s a serious problem for patients, said Stultz-Giffin, who must either pay increased prices for cannabis at the NSLC or seek out an illicit dealer.

“The NSLC doesn’t carry all the products that patients require and often times the quality of medicine isn’t up to standards for patients,” she told Global News. “Plus people who suffer from alcoholism certainly don’t want to go in a liquor store to purchase their medicine.”

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READ MORE: 4 charged after raid of cannabis dispensary on Gottingen Street

Enns’ attorney told Global News that he plans to defend himself against the charges tied to the Gottingen Street raid. It’s one of two legal battles the activist has taken on. Enns’ constitutional challenge of regulations around access to medical cannabis is currently in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

His wife, Sherri Reeve, said his spirits remain strong.

“He’s a rock. He’s a mountain, that guy,” she said in an interview outside the courthouse. “Because he’s so well-spoken, he acts as a great role model for us. He can keep his temper when we’re all so passionate and want to scream and yell, he’s the man of reason.”

The medical cannabis community in Halifax is struggling without him, said protesters. Farm Assists was known to distribute free cannabis capsules to cancer patients, two of whom attended the rally and confirmed the arrangement with Global News.

“Everyone is heartbroken. We’ve got no place to go, no place to access our medication,” said LeBlanc.

Enns’ next court appearance is scheduled for Sept. 13.

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